8 Online Shopping Hacks Everyone Should Know

Should You Use Credit or Debit When Shopping Online?

While brick-and-mortar stores still account for most shopping purchases, almost 70% of adult consumers shop online at least once a month, according to the global market research firm Mintel,

If you’re like me, you love the convenience of shopping in your PJs. But how do you find the best deals? The following tips will help you score the very best price on everything, from books to the shelves that hold them.

1. Do Your Homework

To make sure you’re getting the best price, use comparison sites like Price Grabber or Yahoo Shopping before deciding on a site. Simply enter the name of an item and all the retailers that carry it, and the store with the best price should magically appear.

2. Get Dynamic

If you have the patience, watch how a product’s price fluctuates over the course of a week or more. Many sites use “dynamic” or “surge” pricing, which can cause prices to rise and fall due to demand and other factors. Rumor has it some sites even price items based on your personal browsing habits, so try clearing your search history before shopping.

An easy way to keep an eye on prices at popular e-tailers like Amazon, Newegg and more is with price alerts like the ones provided by Slickdeals. Just create an alert for a specific item and you’ll receive an email if the price drops below a certain amount. When the price is right, pounce.

3. Look out for Coupons

Now that you’re armed with info on which retailers have what you want at the lowest price, see if you can get an even lower price by looking for coupons on sites or apps like Dealnews and FatWallet. You may not find a discount or free shipping offer to apply to your purchase, but it’s worth a try.

4. Give a Gift to Yourself

Check sites like GiftCardGranny and Cardpool to look for discounted digital gift cards for the site where you plan to shop. You may save anywhere from 2% to 30% on your purchase.

5. Become a New Customer

If you have not shopped on a certain site before, you probably have a “new customer” discount coming your way, which will pop up when you visit the site. And whether you are a new customer or not, familiarize yourself with the store’s return policies. While most e-tailers accept returns, some won’t do it for free, so it’s good to know the rules just in case.

6. Let It Be 

If you can bear to wait, try leaving your item in the shopping cart for a day. The e-tailer might send you an email offering a discount on that item. Or you might find a discount in your social feeds. Be mindful that if the product’s already on sale, it could sell out while you wait.

7. Ship Items Free

Try to avoid paying for shipping if you can help it. Some sites offer free shipping all the time and some have fairly low spending thresholds, like $25. Rather than pay $7.95 or so for shipping, consider adding a low-priced (but useful) filler item like a pair of socks to score free shipping. If you shop with Amazon but don’t have Prime, try the helpful Filler Item finder for suggestions on what to buy to reach their $35 free shipping threshold.

8. Join the Club 

If there are sites you like to shop, sign up for their mailing list so you can be privy to sales and other special offers. Some sites even send discounts on birthdays or offer bonuses for referring a friend. Following your favorite online brands on social media will also keep you abreast of sales.

Remember, when shopping online it pays to be safe. If you ever have reason to believe your personal information was compromised, you can check your credit report for signs of fraud on Credit.com.

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6 Secrets to Buying Quality Used Stuff Online

quality used stuff

Buying something used vs. new is a classic way to save money. Garage sales and thrift stores are standard for this type of commerce.  But these days, thanks to apps and the internet, there are dozens of ways to buy treasures sellers want to get rid of. There are a few rules of thumb for effective ‘treasure hunting.’

1. Explore the Uncharted Territory

Before you start buying, get familiar with the ins and outs of the site you are visiting. Some sites, like Etsy — where you can not only buy handmade items, but used items as well — are pretty straightforward. EBay can be a bit more complicated, with its variety of options for buying and selling and tricks to scoring the best stuff. Their Bidding and Buying Help page can help you get the lay of the land.

2. Read the Fine Print

Before making a purchase, form a solid understanding of important details like shipping fees, shipping times and return policies. The information should all be accessible – read it so you know what you’re getting into.

3. Be Discerning

From the old guard like Craigslist to newer players like local re-selling marketplace Wallapop, most of these sites offer seller ratings or reviews. They are all a little different. But before you buy from someone, try to figure out if this person is reliable. Look for top-rated sellers with reviews confirming quality merchandise, responsiveness and fast shipping times.

4. Look for a Quality Guarantee

While it’s pretty much a free-for-all on most of these sites, with sellers posting and selling their wares with no oversight, some sites, like clothing and accessories re-seller ThredUp, hand-select the merchandise on their site. If an item is less than perfect, the imperfection is indicated so you really know what you’re getting.

5. Know You’re Not Alone

Buying items from individuals may be unnerving, but most of these online marketplaces have protections in place to ensure you are a happy customer. A good example of this is clothing marketplace Poshmark’s Poshprotect, which does not release your payment to the seller until you give the A-OK. And if you’re unhappy, they make it fairly to return your order (it has to be for a good reason, not just because you changed your mind). Local re-selling marketplace OfferUp offers an extra layer of security with its TruYou verification system, which helps to ID the seller as a “trusted” user.

6. Meet Face to Face & Do It Safely

If you see something you like on a local re-selling marketplace like Craigslist or competitors LetGo, OfferUp and Close5, be sure to meet the seller somewhere secure – you are meeting a stranger after all! Some communities offer designated Craigslist sale zones outside fire or police stations specifically to ensure the safety of these face-to-face sales. You might consider bringing someone with you, and if that’s not possible, let someone know where you will be and when you expect to be home. Also, do not buy anything until you have thoroughly looked it over and tested its functionality.

Keep in mind too that your payment method offers some protections as well. For example, some credit cards offer purchase protections when used on online marketplaces to protect buyers from goods being delivered broken or not as promised. Take a look at your cardholder agreements closely to pick a credit card that has the best protections.

On the same token, you don’t have to buy just anything because it’s a good price. Spending for spending’s sake is a fast way to get into debt.

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Paying Over the Phone With a Credit Card: Are There Risks?

pay_credit_card_phone

Ever wondered what the difference is between using your credit card over the phone versus in person or online? When you use your credit card to make purchases by phone, some things work just as they do when you hand your card over. But there are also some major distinctions.

Verbal authorizations of credit card purchases by phone are declining as more remote transactions move online, Steve Kenneally, vice president of the American Bankers Association’s Center for Payments and Cybersecurity Policy, said. However, telephone credit card transactions have the same consumer protections as when you use your credit card in person or online, he said. The Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 limits cardholders’ liability to $50 in the case of fraudulent transactions, yet nearly all card issuers waive this requirement by offering a zero liability policy.

Any merchant gathering card data must comply with stringent data security standards, just like other types of transactions. In fact, telephone transactions pose a bigger security risk to merchants than shoppers because this is an easy way for criminals to use stolen credit card information without presenting the card.

When making telephone transactions, shoppers should be aware of the fact that they don’t have anything in writing to confirm the nature of the purchase or its amount. When shopping in person, cardholders can view a readout on the register or get a copy of their receipt. And when shopping online, the purchase is put in writing. But when agreeing to a telephone transaction, both parties must make clear the nature of the goods or services being sold, as well as the exact amount of the total charge. The merchant must then provide a receipt, either online, in the mail or with the goods delivered.

Tips for Paying by Phone

When calling a merchant to make a payment, there are some steps you should take to ensure the transaction goes smoothly. First, listen carefully to the description of the sale to check what you’re getting. Unlike in person, you don’t have the goods in hand, and unlike online, you can’t see a picture before confirming the purchase.

When purchasing airline tickets or other travel reservations, take the time to have the merchant read back all of the reservation dates and times, and ask him to confirm the total amount of the charge, including any separate telephone booking fees, which are charged by many airlines. It’s also vital to double-check that your name is spelled correctly.

Next, go online and double-check the amount of the charge to confirm it was processed. With most airlines, for instance, you can receive a refund for any ticket purchased within 24 hours. Notably, American Airlines does not offer such a policy and complies with regulations by offering free 24-hour ticket holds.

Finally, don’t broadcast your credit card information in public, as criminals may overhear. Instead, try not to make charges by phone until you have a little bit of privacy. You should monitor your credit card statements regularly for fraudulent charges. If you have reason to believe your personal information has been compromised, you may want to check your credit for signs your identity has been stolen. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and see your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

Paying by Phone in Person

Making a payment over the phone is a practice that dates back to the popular mail order catalogs that preceded Internet shopping. Today, people are more likely to use their smartphones to authorize purchases at retailers than to spend time reciting their credit card information over the phone. New technology such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and LoopPay promises wireless transactions using stored credit card data. These transactions can be convenient for shoppers, but you need to be sure that your phone has some charge left before you go to the store. Thankfully, you can still use your mobile phone to make payments, even when you can’t get voice or data service.

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